How to convert your garage

Expand your living area by transforming your garage into a spacious new room

Converting a garage into usable living space is an affordable and relatively simple job – but before you start, you’ll need to consider the following:

1. The build quality of your garage

Not all garages can be converted – some are old,shoddily built and could be asbestos ridden. However, if yours was professionally built in the last 25 years, is made of brick or block and is structurally sound, there’s a good chance you could convert it with very little fuss. Start by getting advice from a surveyor at the Building Control department of your local council.

2. The practicalities of the job.

Garages are often on a different level from the house, so you may need to raise or lower floors or ceilings if you want your new room to flow on from the rest of your home. The garage door will need to be replaced with a window and matching bricks, so make sure your builder has access to materials that blend in with the rest of your house. You’ll need heating and insulation to make it usable all year round; plumbing, lighting and security also need to be assessed.

3. Building regulations

You’ll need to apply to your council for Building Regulations approval. If you live in a conservation area or want to extend the garage,you’ll also need planning permission. Some councils require it if you’ll be substantially changing the exterior of your house.

4. Getting the work done

If you have an integral garage, the job should be quite simple and could even be taken on by a competent DIYer. If you do it yourself, expect it to cost around £6,000 once it’s been plastered, decorated and furnished. If you need to make structural changes or if your garage is detached, it will be a more complex job involving knocking down walls, for example, and will cost around £12,000 – in this case, you’ll need to contact an architect or a garage conversion company. It can take anything from 10 days to several months to complete, depending on the job.

Make your room work for you:

Careful planning is a must to avoid costly mistakes. Think about the following:

1. How will you use the space?

If you’ve earmarked the new room as an office or a hobby room, you may want to keep it separate from your main living space; if it’s going to be a living area or kitchen it will need to flow seamlessly from the rest of the house, so you may need to knock through an interior wall.

2. Think about the door that links the garage with the house

Perhaps you could widen it so your new room avoids that thin, boxy feel. French windows that open onto the back garden will flood the room with light and make it feel bigger.

3. Moving a boiler or electricity meter

Moving the boiler or electricity meter to another room adds thousands of pounds to the cost, so box them in with pale-painted wooden units. Using a pale cream colour on the boxing avoids the stark, narrow feel some garages can suffer from.

4. Use the right materials outside

Avoid spoiling the kerb appeal of your home. Bricks and windows need to be matched as closely as possible to the rest of the house.

 

5. Moving a boiler or electricity meter

Moving the boiler or electricity meter to another room adds thousands of pounds to the cost, so box them in with pale-painted wooden units. Using a pale cream colour on the boxing avoids the stark, narrow feel some garages can suffer from.

Useful contacts:

Planning Portal (www.planningportal.gov.uk) has advice on planning rules and Building Regulations.

Local Authority Building Control (0844 561 6136; www.labc.uk.com) has a postcode search tool to find your local Building Control department.

Architect Your Home (0800 849 8505; www.architect-yourhome.com) offers architect services.

Federation of Master Builders (020 7242 7583; www.fmb.org.uk) has a search facility to find reputable builders in your area.

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